experiment mixing CuSO4 and NaOH, and the potential uses for the result. That was the late 1970s--I am curious what actually happened since then.
I was just re-watching James Burke's original "Connections" series. If you haven't watched Connections, I highly recommend it. I think it is one of the most perfectly executed productions I have ever seen, and it bears several re-watchings because you will inevitably fall off track from some rapidly moving historical trajectory and miss something, but also because the more you watch it the more you realize how incredibly thought out every single shot, angle and scene is crafted (the most famous being the rocket launch narration, but I won't spoil that for you with a description).
Anyway, in the last episode of the series, "#10 - Yesterday, Tomorrow and You," Burke is explaining the various levels of understanding technology and science and uses a chemical reaction to demonstrate this. The scene I am talking about is right here in the episode
He demonstrates the mixture of two liquids, which has the unusual result of producing little spheres. I am fairly certain that he states that the two liquids in the mixture are CuSO4 and NaOH.
The experiment to produce "those little spheres" was being conducted at "Harwell" by the Atomic Energy Authority. Burke seemed to imply that the work was secret and that he is only allowed to tell you a few things. A few of the potential uses he says are to:
1) produce more efficient nuclear fuel
2) to help find oil
3) to put a drug in your body to allow it to act at a certain time
4) determine if your blood vessels are working properly or not
The series aired in the late 1970s, so there has been a lot of time since they started producing those little spheres. Since I know so little about chemistry, I am curious about what this "secret" reaction was, and what exactly--if anything--came about from that research.
I am guessing for (3) that maybe the little spheres were like those seen in time-release medicine capsules, and for (4) it is like some of those tests where they inject these nano-balls into blood to see if there are internal bleeds, or holes, or perforations. I guess the same thing could be how (2) is used? I have no guess for (1).
My limited blind googling around led me to believe that the reaction was Copper Sulfate and Sodium Hydroxide, and perhaps the result was Copper Hydroxide--which led me to Dupont Kocide, which is some sort of copper fungicide/bactericide. Although, if 1-4 turned out to be false, and the final result was a plant fungicide, than that would fit in just perfectly with all the random mistakes with fortunate results that the entire series features.
As a bonus question from the same episode: at this point
right before showing the little spheres, Burke is standing on a catwalk above spent fuel rods at a nuclear power plant. Is that safe or is that insane (though I can see him taking that risk for the perfect shot)?